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In praise of shiraz

PETER Lehmann placed his tongue firmly in his cheek to maintain that, when god created shiraz, it was with the Barossa Valley in mind.

The god in question would have to be Allah because shiraz vines were brought to France from Persia by the Crusaders.

When speaking of gods, the grape growers of the Barossa appear to worship Lehmann with a fervour akin to godliness.

His unbridled loyalty to the Barossa Valley is renowned and when this man calls a growers’ picnic they come in Sunday-best in their hundreds – in awe of the man who buys Barossa fruit even in the bad times.

They slice brilliant Barossa wurst, cheese and fresh, crusty bread and indulge in growers’ gossip, take their load, slip and depart to allow the next truck through.

Lehmann and son, Doug, are responsible for some outstanding but affordable wines and they have an ever-growing following.

The great Barossa Shiraz is always among them, though I notice it is creeping up in price to just less than $20.00.

One of the rave-about vintages of the decade was 1998 and the result is a rave-about red.

Showers of spring rain from Bacchus were greeted with glee, but when he sent lovely, warm dry-ripening weather the climate package was perfect.

This is a full-bodied, high alcohol, black-red beauty. The fruit is picked full and ripe – this is what Barossa Shiraz is all about.

For those who demand a softness in reds, this wine is gift-wrapped in velvet.

There is a firm, but delicate, oak presence which stretches the palate. The tannins are solid but don’t interfere with the finish.

If you are patient, the 1998 shiraz would enjoy six to eight years in your cellar. On the otherhand, if you fancy a medium-rare sirloin sauced in a wild mushroom jus, enjoy this big Barossa red now.

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